LIONS PRESIDENT & CEO MATT MILLEN
MM: “Well, obviously with our first pick we took Calvin Johnson. We are excited – it was an easy decision to make. (There was) very little conversation with other teams. I spoke this morning with a few of them, but in the end, it was actually a very easy decision to make for us. Calvin Johnson, and what he brings to this football team, is obvious. If you’re looking at the measurables, they’re way off the charts. If you’re looking at the intangibles, he has all of those as well. I think his character is outstanding; I think his work ethic is high. I told him when he was here that he wouldn’t get past two. We talked about that when we chose him. We couldn’t be more excited to get Calvin Johnson.”Let me just say this: if any of you are thinking that we’re going to use this now to leverage it, the answer is no. Calvin Johnson is staying right here in Detroit. Calvin Johnson is going to team with the rest of this offense and turn it into one of the most dynamic offenses in this league. I firmly believe that. You can scoff at it if you like, I really don’t care because I think it’s going to happen.
“I couldn’t be more pleased and I’ve got my coach here because I believe this thing is going to happen.”
On whether Wisconsin T Joe Thomas was a strong consideration:
MM: “We considered a bunch of different people. We loved the running back (Adrian Peterson); we loved Joe Thomas; we loved the pass rusher (Gaines Adams); but none of them compared to Calvin Johnson. I think Calvin Johnson was in a class by himself.”
On whether he can divulge exactly what he would have wanted to trade out of the No. 2 overall selection:
MM: “A lot of picks.”
On whether it was true that he wanted Atlanta’s first, second, third and next year’s first round picks for the No. 2 overall selection:
MM: “That’s irrelevant. What we were looking for was to help our football team the best way we could – that was the bottom line. If what we were looking for would have helped us become a better team with X extra picks or even another player, yeah we would have done that. But it didn’t, and that’s fine because it’s a high price. It would have to be a high price to equal the talent and the intangibles that this guy brings to us.
“Forget all of that crap. I’m not worried about what did or didn’t happen. That doesn’t matter. What I’m excited about is what this guy brings to this football team. This guy is the real deal. Does he have work to do? Absolutely he has a lot of work to do. What I’m encouraged about is: he’s willing to work. That’s half the battle.”
LIONS HEAD COACH ROD MARINELLI
RM: “Like I’ve said from Day 1 – and I’m not going to change and I’m not going to waiver – character, football character, and how I define. Somebody else may define it one way, it’s how I define it that matters to this team; my decisions on it and what character is. Some people don’t understand quite what I’m talking about, so if I need to define it again, I’ll do that. This guy brings it; he brings a lot to the table. He brings a lot to our offense. All of the sudden all our receivers are better; he’ll make our receivers better with his presence. Our running game has a chance to be better. Our defense has a chance to be better. So those things are exciting to me but the talent is awesome. (He has) tremendous talent, but it’s the other things that I’m really excited about. You bring a guy in to your organization, like we did last year, that just loves this game and wants to work and is special.”
On whether they were concerned that Oakland might choose him: “We have to have all of those scenarios worked out, if he’s there or not there, all of those different scenarios. In my heart, I felt the last couple of weeks that he would be there.”
On whether Johnson’s talent was so overwhelming that you just couldn’t pass him up:
RM: “The talent and what he brings with him as a person. If you only had one of them (talent or character), it wouldn’t (be enough); but he brings both. That’s the part I think is exciting for us. When he was here, he created a lot of energy. He was here during one of our OTA days and he just created a tremendous amount of energy on our team. It’s about winning. If you find enough guys that are interested in winning, it makes it special.”
On where Johnson will be lined up:
RM: “Right now, Mike Martz is up there and he has paper everywhere. He’s just scribbling – we’ll wait until he (Johnson) gets here.”
On whether Johnson’s admission to trying Marijuana is a concern:
RM: “As the NFL office said, it’s all confidential. That’s something we just can’t talk about. I’m not going to comment on that.”
On what he saw in Johnson that made him believe it was the right choice:
RM: “His talent is different than what I’ve ever seen there. His character is really special; that part of it is exciting. He’s a team guy. The thing that really excites me is that we have an offensive coordinator that knows how to use him. He (Mike Martz) has proven that he knows how to use these types of guys. If you didn’t have that type of coach with you and developing an offensive staff like I think we are, then you would be saying: ‘we’re bringing a great player in, but can we use him right.’ We know how to use this guy and that’s the part I’m really excited about. Roy Williams is better; he’s better right at this moment. Mike Furrey is better. Those are the things you get excited about.”
On where he learned the importance of football character:
RM: “It’s always kind of been there but in 1996, when I was with Coach (Tony) Dungy. When we went to Tampa Bay that was the most critical thing; and it’s not just character, its football character. That’s how we tried to build and I know that’s what he’s done (in Indianapolis). He’s had a tremendous impact on me, 12 years ago, with that. We kept our eye on that all of the time. All the talent pool can be intoxicating, but you have a belief on how you want to do it; and it’s not just what came out the last year and some of those things, it’s what I said when I first got here. That’s how I believe this game should be played, with football character. High-energy, they love it, they can’t live without it and want to be one of the first guys on the field and the last guy off the field and want to win. That’s what I’m looking for and all I can say is: wow, he’s got great talent with it (character). You just don’t always find it like that. He’s bringing something special. We found it last year with Ernie (Sims); we found it last year with Daniel Bullocks and we’re going to keep looking for it.”
On how much Mike Martz lobbied for the team to draft Johnson:
RM: “I would have notes all over my desk everyday that said: ‘Coach, I really like you, (from) Calvin Johnson. Oh, this just happens to be Mike Martz’s handwriting.’ I would have notes everywhere. That’s what you create; I want them coming in fighting – I want them to watch tape and fight for their guy. Then I’m going ask them when they fight: why? I want to know why you’re fighting for this guy. Does he bring everything we want? There’s a lot of fights going on down their right now; guys are gearing up. We’re still watching tape in between rounds and stuff like that. It’s exciting. We’ve just got to go do a good job.”
On clarifying an earlier statement about Johnson making Williams and Furrey better:
RM: “They’re better right now, Roy and Mike, because of his (Johnson’s) presence. He makes that group better because the coverages are dictated a little bit more. All of the sudden, Roy may get some great looks now when coverages weren’t giving him looks (before) – because of this guy. Or Calvin’s better because the looks that Roy will demand; or, our running game has a chance because you’ve got coverages working outside; Mike Furrey has a chance. It’s the same as a pass rush: if you’ve just got one (pass rusher), you chip or you slide; if you’ve got two, somebody is going to get single (coverage). It’s the same idea.”
LIONS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE MARTZ
Opening Statement: “Wow, what a dream come true. Interesting story for you: I think Calvin was over at Rod’s (Marinelli) house last night. He raked the leaves in the backyard and emptied the trash and left a note that said, ‘Please draft me.’ Ironically, it was in my handwriting. I had nothing to do with it (Laughter). We left notes all through the week teasing Coach that they were notes from Calvin that were in my handwriting. His handwriting looks a lot like mine. But, we left these notes throughout the week for him, just to tease him. That’s how excited we all are about this selection.
“I don’t think it can be overstated about his ability and about his character. When great character meets great ability like that, only good things can happen. The whole organization, all the players – Mike Furry is so excited about it. He’s asked me every time I’ve seen him what the chances (are) that we can get him (Calvin Johnson) and that we’ll draft him; the whole football team is so excited about this young man. He made such a good impression on all of our players during his visit.
“This is just not a feel-good story for us. (He is) a guy that fits for us; he’s just a dynamic player and explosive with unlimited ability in terms of what he can do for us on the field. (He has the) character we’re looking for, (and) competitively (he) helps this team win.”
On what Johnson did during his visit that impressed him: “Just his maturity and how he handled himself as a mature man; his priorities and what he talked about. He didn’t talk about himself; he talked about playing the game. He asked all the right questions about the Detroit Lions and what we do on offense. He sat in on some of the meetings and we let him participate with some of those things and just listen in on how we do things.
“He watched practice. So many times when a guy comes in to visit, as they watch some of our OTAs and walk-through stuff that we do on the field, it can become boring. He watched every second of that. In fact, he’d walk behind (a drill) and wanted to see what was going on. Probably the best thing I can tell you from that, that we learned, is that he has a great deal of passion for the game of football and that is so important for us.
“Regardless of his ability, if a great talent does not love this game and have great passion and great character like that, then he’ll never fully achieve his full potential. I think with this young man, you’d have to give him high marks in every way – both as a man and as a football player.”
On where Calvin Johnson fits within the offense: “We’re going to put him over with Mike Furry at Z, opposite of Roy (Williams). We’ve got Mac (Shaun McDonald) and Roy at X and then Mike and Calvin over at Z. He will be the Z in our four wide receiver package with Mike inside and Mac inside and Roy on the outside. That’s a pretty good crew of four. Hopefully it will equal the best I’ve ever had, or maybe it will be a bit better, who knows.”
On if Johnson will need time because of the amount of plays he has to learn: “The first thing that happens with receivers – all of them, I don’t care how good they are or how well they catch the ball – initially, they go through the process of learning route-depths, where they are supposed to be, their responsibilities, sight adjustments, and hots and whatnot. They have so many things like formations going on in their mind that all of a sudden the ball is in the air and they forget to catch the ball. It sounds silly, but it does happen initially. That’ll happen with him in practice early. They all go through it. It works its way through during the preseason and then he’ll take off and be just fine.
“I think the biggest advantage of Calvin opposed to Roy is that Calvin doesn’t have to unlearn a system in the NFL. Our system is so diametrically opposed or different from what was done here in the past. It was a little bit of a struggle for Roy to change gears and terminology. That was hard for him. Calvin comes in without that issue where he has to come in and unlearn something, so to speak, with the terminology. In that aspect it should be easier for him.”
On if he favors smaller receivers: “Size has never been an issue for me, ever. I think people just assume that I want smaller receivers. That is not the issue. Size has just never mattered to me. To me the thing that makes the big difference is that you had to line up and beat a corner one-on-one consistently. Good corners. To do that you have to have explosiveness, speed, separation and body control. Well, what I just described come in six-foot (players) or shorter. It just does. There are rare players, like Roy, who are taller than six foot, but can do those things.
“It also takes a rare player who has those little-guy abilities, like great quickness. You have to have very strong legs to do what he (Calvin Johnson) does at that size. That is something, for instance, that Torry (Holt) and Isaac (Bruce) had, great leg strength for that suddenness and change of direction. He has that. That is the thrill for me; that you can take a 6-5 receiver, line him up against a corner and he can do the same type of things that Shaun McDonald at 5-9 or 5-10 can do. That is really a huge aspect and with height involved is such a big advantage. There is not anything he can’t do, based on tape and his workout, that the smaller receivers can do. That is truly an unusual athlete that can do that.”
On how he would you rate him all time among other receivers in the draft: “I think he’s the best I’ve ever seen. That doesn’t mean that’s the way it works out. I just think it’s such a great start for him. He has the same qualities that the great ones that have come out had. I think he has a little bit of an edge in some areas as well: the quickness for instance and he is just a mature young man that I feel he will handle the pressures of the media with a great sense of awareness and maturity.”
On if it is an advance that Johnson played for ex-NFL coach Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech: “There is great value. The types of routes that he runs are very similar to the things that we do. His association with Chan and Chan’s ability to prepare him for the types of things that are going to happen to him in the NFL is real important.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH LIONS WR CALVIN JOHNSON
On the feeling he got from the Lions coaches: “I got a little feeling that I could be a big help for the offense.”
On the possibility of the Lions trading him: “After talking to the coaches, I felt that I would end up a Lion. I still didn’t ever know what would definitely happen.”
On what gave him the impression the Lions would keep him: “It was just talking to the coaches. It wasn’t really anything specifically they said, it was just from talking to a couple of guys that I thought that would happen.”
On playing in Mike Martz’s offense: “That’s great. I would say that I was put in a great situation let alone with the other great receivers they have up there.”
On his feelings when he watched practice during his visit: “I got the feeling from standing there outside the film room or watching practice that (it’s something) I definitely could be a part of.”
On if he talked to Roy Williams and Mike Furrey during his visit: “I got to talk to them at practice and in the film room and throughout the day.”
On what this day had been like: “I’ve just been through a bunch of interviews after my name was called. I did interviews for about an hour or so. Now I am just waiting to find out when I am coming to Detroit.”
On the feeling of being drafted No. 2 overall: “It’s great to be picked that high. It’s a great feeling.”
On his thoughts on Rod Marinelli and the staff: “They impressed me a lot. They said they are trying to get a team with a bunch of high character kind of guys.”
On the report regarding marijuana use that leaked out prior to the draft: “All the teams already knew so it really didn’t have any effect.”
On if it is still an issue: “That was back when I was young in college, so I don’t mess with it any more.”
LIONS QB JON KITNA (INTERVIEW WITH WKRK 97.1 FREE FM)
On being happy with the team choosing WR Calvin Johnson: “Yeah, I mean anytime you can add the best player in the draft – that’s a pretty good thing for your football team. As a quarterback, the fact that he’s a receiver makes it even better. I’m pretty excited about that, definitely.”
On having the problem of not knowing who to throw it to: “That’s the good thing about the system and what Coach Martz does. It’s not like I get to drop back and choose who I’m going to throw it to. You just go through your reads and do the things that Coach (Martz) is asking you to do and try to run the system the way that he asks you to do it. He has a way of getting the ball to who he wants to get the ball to on certain plays and being able to spread it around – I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. It’s going to be fun. I’m sure he (Calvin Johnson) is going to have a lot of fun within Coach Martz’s scheme.”
On how many guys does he think he will have tapping him on the shoulder in the huddle telling him that they’re open: “That’s pretty interesting because they always think they’re open. A lot of times they’re right. Certain plays just call for certain guys to get the ball. The good thing is: they know that with Coach Martz and the way that he runs this system, that balls are going to come their way, they just have to be patient.”
On whether this system will be easier to teach to Johnson now that he and Roy Williams have had a year’s experience in it: “I would think that’s going to be the case and the fact that we’ve added a Shaun McDonald is only going to help too. With him and Mike Furrey, guys that have run it before and then now with Roy and myself having been in it – even the coaching staff. The receiver coaches, they’ve been in it for a year and they know what to expect. I think it’s going to be a good thing for everybody and it will be good for him coming in.”
On whether he felt that everybody was excited during Johnson’s visit: “I think everybody was really excited to see him there. I think everybody was excited about the prospect that we might draft him. That was the feeling that I got in our locker room. Am I saying that 100-percent of the guys wanted it to be that way? No, probably not, but I think the majority of our football team was excited about the prospect of getting him on our football team and the problems he’s going to present for other teams and the luxury it’s going to be for us to have him. Like I said, everything that you’ve heard people say about him, not just coaches in our organization but coaches I’ve talked to that I played for in the past around the league, they say that this guy is probably the best player coming out in the last 10 years. That’s a pretty good person to put on your football team.”
On if in his career he’s ever lined up with this caliber of a receiving corps: “Potentially, I had that opportunity in Seattle. In my first start, starting there, we had Joey Galloway, we had James McKnight – two guys that both ran sub-4.3 40s; we had Mike Pritchard and Brian Blades on the inside running the slot; we had Chris Warren in the backfield and Ricky Watters in the backfield. So there was a lot of talent there; it broke up kind of quickly. Galloway went through a contract holdout; there were some trades; Brian Blades retired. To start a season, no, that hasn’t been the case for me. It’s an unusual situation. You don’t see people typically end up having this much talent around them. It’s a great thing for a quarterback.”
On what the team’s willingness to take another receiver says to the fans: “That we’re not playing around. We’re trying to win this season and building towards the future and this can accomplish both things.”
On how many points he expects to rack up with this kind of talent: “I don’t that I would ever try to quantify it. It’s just really hard to imagine what’s going to happen for us on the football field. All this stuff looks good on paper but we don’t get to pick up where we left off and the good feeling that we had in Dallas and the way we played the week before against Chicago, we don’t get to start right there. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us. Calvin is going to have to come in and pick up a very intricate system in a hurry to be able to make an impact early in the football season. For us, the hard thing is going to be to temper the excitement that we have. I’ve already heard from a number of the guys on the team today and the excitement that they have with this pick. We have to temper that and understand that: nothing gets handed to you and that you’re not guaranteed to make a super jump from three wins to 10 or to 12 but it can happen if you put the work in and you stay focused throughout the season and do what coaches are asking you to do.
“For us, we should score a lot of points. Whether we picked Calvin Johnson or not this year, we should score a lot of points. Picking him is going to help us score them.”
On how much of the draft he has actually watched: “I haven’t watched anything yet; I’m at a marriage conference right now. I had to leave a session to get on the radio. I’m at a marriage conference right now with my wife in Indianapolis. I’ll catch the highlights later which is about the only thing that really matters anyways. Because all the experts said that we were never going to pick Calvin and then it got closer and we ended up picking him.”
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